Tag Archives: Rare books

Emmy Ingle, Lady Margaret Hall Library

Me in the very intriguing Briggs Room, where the rare books live.

Hello, I’m Emmy and I’m the current graduate trainee at Lady Margaret Hall Library, one of the college libraries. For my first post, I thought I’d give an introduction to how our library and its unique personality fit into the 100+ Oxford libraries. I’ll also tell you a bit about my own interests and experiences within libraries and information, which are a little different from an academic library.

‘Filled with volumes of every kind, handsomely bound without, and full of useful learning within…’

 

…is how an early student described the original LMH library. It’s large for a college library, and there is a historical reason for this. LMH was founded in 1878 to allow women to study at the university; previously, colleges only admitted men. Early LMH students were heavily discouraged from visiting the Bodleian Library (where they might encounter boys!) and consequently they relied on a comprehensively stocked college library. One of the things I like about the college is how they continue their history of access and inclusivity, for example through the Foundation Year programme.

1879: the college’s first nine students. [Source: LMH]

This slightly larger collection includes  a rare books room (having lived surrounded by the history of the Pendle Witches for the last few years, I’m excited to meet the witchcraft books). However, we’re still smaller than the faculty libraries, and being part of a small team means I get to do a bit of everything – from the expected (turning the photocopier off and on again) to the more surprising (competing on the library’s Giant Jenga team and definitely not cheating).

LMH Library from across the wildflower meadow.

So how did I end up here? Saturday afternoons spent helping out at my local Sue Ryder shop were my introduction to systematising written materials: sipping tea in the stock room, I’d sort bin bags of dusty-smelling books into alphabetised piles. Later, I became interested in the information side of things. Between university lectures I volunteered with the student charity Sexpression:UK, who facilitate workshops in schools around PSHE topics. This made me reflect on where the young people I was working with sourced knowledge and information, and how they were (or weren’t) being encouraged to evaluate it.

Having developed this interest in information in health contexts, I looked for some work experience with Library and Knowledge Services at my local NHS trust. Besides trying out shelving, the label machine, and other more traditional library activities, a clinical setting presents more unusual opportunities. I found myself testing wet-wipes with nurses, learning my way around a forest plot, and listing as many synonyms as I could find for ‘hip operation’. Healthcare knowledge and information is an area I’m hoping to become involved in following the traineeship, so I’ll probably talk a bit more about what this entails in another post.

Freddy doing a bit of shelving.

Having looked at the past and the future, I’ll leave you with what’s currently going on in the library at this time of year. Students are about to resume their studies. This means there are inductions to prepare (which may involve jelly beans and our resident skeleton, Freddy) and the latest textbooks to process. Meanwhile, the library pages in my notebook are already filling up with events, meetings and scribbled ideas. I’m looking forward to sharing them on here as they happen.

 

 

St John’s College Library Tour

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The Old Library

This week, we had a Monday morning treat in the form of our first trainee-led library tour. Joanne welcomed us into St John’s with a bit of historical background, describing the college’s foundation by a wealthy Merchant Taylor and its staunch loyalty to the Royalist cause during the Civil Wars. In fact, finding images of King Charles I in and around the library took on a distinctly Where’s Wally feel after a while!

We were welcomed in and asked to stow our bags safely behind the desk: in contrast to most of the reading rooms we saw on the Bod tour, the librarians are the main form of book detectors here. Then it was onwards into the Paddy Room, a light and spacious area with open shelves holding the library’s science, social sciences and DVD collections.

Upstairs provided a striking change of scene with the Old Library, complete with a laser security system (which Joanne managed to disable for us with her secret library ninja ways). One of the other librarians, Stewart Tiley, then treated us to a hands-on display of some of the manuscripts and early printed books. These works were passed around very gingerly! As we walked through we took in some of the display on the Seven Deadly Sins organised by Joanne’s predecessor; who knew Jane Austen would be one of the guilty party?

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The Laudian Library

We then passed into the Laudian Library, named after Charles I’s archbishop. As well as holding modern humanities works and providing an atmospheric workspace for readers, this room housed yet more special collections.

We saw a botched piece of royal propaganda, a tiny New Testament written in indecipherable shorthand and a Renaissance horoscope. Some of the more bizarre curios included a macabre walking stick used by Laud right up until his execution,  while Stewart suggested the reinstatement of the skeletons which used to flank the door. And to keep up the Charles I quota, there was an image of the king composed of a psalm in miniscule handwriting.

Finally, we got to take a peek into the archives, which offered a mix of the modern and the unique. St John’s is very lucky to hold collections of papers previously belonging to Robert Graves and Spike Milligan. What better way to finish a visit by looking at the Milligan’s illustration of Fluffybum the cat?

Trainee project showcase – Antiquarian books in the History Faculty Library

On 13 July, as Becci has said, the Graduate Trainees held our project showcase, where we shared the projects we have been working on this year.  The other presentations from the showcase are available here, and some are also in this blog.

My trainee project was making a record of a collection of antiquarian books that are kept in closed stacks in the History Faculty Library.  Most are from the 18th and 19th century; a dozen are older, and there are also some 20th-century books there because of their special provenance.  The majority of the books are not catalogued electronically, though they are classified.  The outcomes were:

  1. A spreadsheet document listing the books with information such as publication details, provenance and interesting annotations.  This can, I hope, be used by HFL staff and Bodleian Special Collections staff, who are ultimately responsible for all the Special Collections material in the Bodleian Libraries, in making informed decisions about the future of the collection.
  2. An HFL Rare Books blog with a post for each title in the collection, which is intended for use by readers.  It can be reached from the HFL’s website.

I was very pleased to be able to work with antiquarian books, as it is an aspect of librarianship I was interested in finding out more about (I still am, though I’m not sure I would want to work with them all the time).  I wasn’t expecting to do so much with computers and Web 2.0, but I am glad that it turned out that way, as it gave me the chance to consider aspects of library marketing and outreach, and also to think about describing books using tags and categories.

The presentation includes photos of some highlights of the collection, which are listed below.

The images of individual books are:

  1. Hickes, George: Linguarum vett. septentrionalium thesaurus / Antiquæ literaturæ septentrionalis libri duo, Vol. 1 (a book interesting for its content alone)
  2. Henrici de Bracton de legibus & consuetudinibus Angliæ libri quinq[ue] (the oldest book in the HFL, unless it’s an elaborate hoax)
  3. Prynne, William: The history of King John, King Henry III. and the most illustrious King Edward the I (probably the oldest annotations in the HFL – can anyone read the words next to the price and date?)
  4. Jolliffe, J. E. A.: The constitutional history of medieval England from the English settlement to 1485, Vol. 2 (the other end of the age-range: 20th-century author’s working copy, rebound with notes for 2nd edition)
  5. Ellis, Henry, Sir, ed.: Registrum vulgariter nuncupatum “The record of Caernarvon” (annotations showing reader – probably Edgar Bennett – engaging with text.  A recurring feature is transcription of Old Welsh place/personal names into Modern Welsh orthography)
  6. Madox, Thomas: Formulare anglicanum (belonged  to the Greenfield Doggett family, who seem to have found an ancestor in the text)
  7. Thurloe, John: A collection of the state papers of John Thurloe, Esq., Vol. 3 (contains rubbing and fragment of a previous spine)
  8. Scotland statutes: The acts of the parliaments of Scotland, Vol. 11 (found with large patch of mould extending inwards from front cover.  Now treated by conservators and safe)